Jeremy Corbyn claims Panorama documentary on Labour antisemitism contained 'many, many, inaccuracies'

Programme 'adopted a predetermined position' before it was aired, says party leader

Chris Baynes
Saturday 13 July 2019 18:45
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Jeremy Corbyn has said there were “many, many, inaccuracies” in this week’s BBC Panorama documentary about antisemitism in the Labour Party, claiming the programme adopted a “predetermined position” before it was broadcast.

Speaking during a visit to the Durham Miners’ Gala, Mr Corbyn insisted Labour had made its complaints procedures “very clear” and that members and staff who raised concerns were supported.

The documentary, which aired on Wednesday, featured former Labour employees speaking out about their experiences of antisemitism and whistleblowers who claimed they had been obstructed in their attempts to tackle the issue.

The Panorama investigation has deepened a rift within the party, with Mr Corbyn’s allies attacking deputy leader Tom Watson after he reacted to the programme by condemning Labour’s “deplorable” response to antisemitism.

Labour has denied some of the claims in the documentary and has complained to the BBC, which said the programme adhered to its editorial guidelines.

Mr Corbyn said: “I watched the programme and I felt there were many, many inaccuracies in the programme.

“The programme adopted a pre-determined position on its own website before it was broadcast.”

He added: “We’ve made very clear what our processes are.

“Our party members do have the right to be heard if they’re accused of anything and our party staff have a right to be supported and they are supported.”

Asked whether he would publish Labour’s response to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) inquiry into allegations of antisemitism within the party, Mr Corbyn said the investigation had not yet happened. But he said he would fully cooperate with the EHRC.

“Antismitism is a poison, it is vile, it is wrong,” he added. “It is a poison in our society and any other society … It is not acceptable in any form.”

Mr Corbyn noted anyone in the party who committed any act of antisemitism faced withdrawal of membership or expulsion.

He added: “We investigate every case that comes up.

“It’s less than 0.1 per cent of our membership that have ever been involved in any accusation, never mind any resolution of the issue.

“We are processing [cases] in a timely manner and I believe that anyone looking at our process will say actually this is a robust process and maybe we’ll invite other political parties to adopt the same diligence that we have adopted.”

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Unite general secretary Len McCluskey drew the biggest cheer at the Miners’ Gala when he attacked Mr Watson in blunt language during a defence of Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary.

The deputy leader has faced criticising for writing to Ms Formby, who is being treated for cancer, to raise concerns about the party’s treatment of employees. The general secretary accused Mr Watson of “traducing my reputation and publicly attacking me when you know I am undergoing chemotherapy and am unable to respond in the media”.

Mr McCluskey told thousands gathered in the rain on Durham Racecourse: “I have a simple message for Tom Watson and his pals in the media – a simple message to Tom and his pals: You should f***ing well be ashamed of yourselves.

“Jennie, our message to you is that the Durham Miners’ Gala stands with you.”

In a statement, the BBC said: “The BBC stands by its journalism and we completely reject any accusations of bias or dishonesty. The investigation was not pre-determined, it was driven by the evidence.

“The outcome shows the serious questions facing the Labour party and its leadership on this issue. The programme adhered to the BBC’s editorial guidelines, including contacting the Labour party in advance of the broadcast for a full right of reply.”

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